Boeing appears to be a step closer to moving the production of its 787 Dreamliner away from its Seattle home to its South Carolina factory. Rumors have been circulating for a while that the manufacturer was looking to consolidate the process to one location. Today, new reports have emerged stating that the consolidation will likely go ahead. We’ve taken a more in-depth look at why Boeing might make the move.
Moving away from Seattle
Earlier this year, Boeing confirmed that it would be cutting the production rate of its 787 Dreamliner by around 50%. The decision came with several job cuts and other cost-cutting initiatives that stemmed directly from the global downtown caused by the pandemic. The demand for new aircraft is low, and without the MAX in service, Boeing is losing too much cash.
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The 787 is the manufacturer’s most popular widebody aircraft, but demand has still plummeted. Boeing temporarily closed several facilities because of the virus and has used the time to consider making more long-term changes. One such change would be to move all production of the 787 Dreamliner to its South Carolina facility.
Currently, Dreamliner production is split across the Seattle and North Charleston production lines. But with demand so low, one facility should be enough to meet demand. North Charleston, South Carolina, is emerging as the obvious option.
It’s the only place which can make the largest Dreamliner, the 787-10, and it fabricates, assembles, and installs fuselage sections for the 787-8 and 787-9. Since Boeing has cut production to just six jets per month, the South Carolina facility could handle being the only Dreamliner production facility.
An official announcement
While Boeing has not officially confirmed the move, industry insiders seem to think it is a sure thing. Reuters even reported that “Barring a last-minute U-turn, Boeing is ‘all but certain’ to move the rest of 787 production”. Since Boeing is set to make an earnings report in late October, many suspect an announcement will happen then.
However, while it certainly seems to make financial sense to move to South Carolina, Boeing still has lots to consider before confirming the move. In a statement to Simple Flying, Boeing said,
“We will prudently evaluate the most efficient way to build airplanes, including studying the feasibility of consolidating 787 production in one location. . . We will take into account a number of factors and keep an eye on future requirements as we think through the long-term health of our production system.”
A tough decision
Once the industry starts to recover, and demand improves, Boeing has said it would increase production to ten per month. This will only be possible at the South Carolina facility if Boeing invests a considerable amount to expand its current production line.
If Boeing does move all 787 production to South Carolina, the Seattle facility will only produce the 747, 767 and the 777. After 2022, when production stops on the 747, this means the Seattle production line, which was once a powerhouse for Boeing, will only turn out around five jets per month. Rumors have surfaced that the production of the 737 MAX could be transferred to Everett from nearby Renton.
The issue Boeing is facing is short-term cuts may help stem the cash bleed right now, but in the long term, it may not be feasible to stop 787 production in Seattle. If it does decide to move, it will be a blow for the Seattle area. Seattle has famously been the center of Boeing’s production since 1967.
What do you think of Boeing’s decision? Do you think they will go ahead with the move? We’d love to hear your thoughts.